I have a secret.
And if we’re all being honest…I think it’s probably a secret that most of us have. And those of us who think we don’t have this secret…are most likely lying. Or in denial.
You want to know what it is, don’t you? Okay, fine I’ll tell you.
Are you sure you want to know?
Here it is:
I have no idea what I’m doing 99% of the time.
99% is probably being generous. Seriously though, I just make things up as I go and act like I know what I’m doing.
And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that most other people are making it up as they go, too.
This is especially true in my life when it comes to cooking. I took one cooking class in 7th grade and that was literally the only time I ever attempted to learn to cook anything.
When I was younger, I never really had much of an interest in helping my mom or other family members cook dinner. That was their business. They were there to serve me and I was there to sit around and eat when the food was ready.
Now that I’m older, I’m mad at myself. That stupid little kid version of me was missing out on a rare opportunity to learn when my mind was ripe and the information was right in front of me. Now I just have to fumble around in the kitchen until I come up with something that’s edible.
Luckily for me, I’ve come up with some pretty decent dishes and I’ve managed to even feed some people food that they don’t hate. Sometimes those people are impressed and act like I just performed brain surgery when I tell them that I actually made the food they’re eating. In reality, anything I’ve ever made has been super easy. If it wasn’t easy, I can assure you…I wouldn’t be wasting my time.
So how do I manage to cook things with a lack of cooking knowledge and experience? Good news, I’m about to tell you.
The Internet is your best friend
A lot of times I’ll have a couple ingredients but have no clue what to make with them. I’ll just google the ingredients +recipe (ie. “apple kale goat cheese recipe”) and make whatever looks the best. This is pretty much how I find every food I ever make.
Sometimes, there are weird things in recipes that I don’t know how to do. Often the step, “braise meat on both sides” comes up and i’m at a complete loss for what to do. No problem. That’s what YouTube is for. A quick search for “how to braise meat” comes up with countless tutorial videos under a few minutes. Boom. Now you know how to braise meats.
Then, a lot of times…I don’t feel like doing so many complicated things like braising meat. I’m confused about why I need to cook my meat before I cook my meat.
Apparently it has something to do with locking in flavors….juices…whatever. Sometimes I just don’t care about making something gourmet. I just want something decent.
Which leads me to my next point…
If something looks overly complicated or I’m missing an ingredient, a lot of times I’ll still make it but just skip that part. That’s the great thing about cooking…it’s one of the few things where you can leave things out or skip steps and still end up with something good.
Obviously, you can’t skip important things like the actual cooking part or completely remove the main ingredient. But in the case of braising, you’re already cooking the meat…so if you skip the braising step…you still will eventually cook the meat, just not in the same way.
One of the main ways I use this tactic is by leaving out ingredients I don’t have or using something different. A couple weeks ago, I made these grain-free cinnamon raisin bagels. I was excited to see that I already had all of the ingredients in my house except for guar gum or xanthan gum, honey, and raisins.
Naturally, I said, “I don’t have all the ingredients?! Guess I can’t make these or I have to go buy the ingredients.”
Just kidding, I made them anyway. Cause I’m a rebel. I just didn’t use any guar or xantham gum….I figured the worst that could happen would be that they didn’t stick together very well.
Instead of honey, I used some coconut sugar I had and a little bit extra liquid to make up for the liquidy the honey would have provided.
Instead of raisins I used…nothing. I just didn’t add them.
Since I didn’t use some of the ingredients and subsituted another one…once I started to cook them, my oven exploded and my apartment burned down.
Not. They turned out great! Maybe they would have been better with the original ingredients but when your choices are moderately-delicious bagels or no bagels…moderately-delicious seems like the better option there.
If a part of a recipe seems intimidating to you or if you don’t have an ingredient, don’t be afraid to leave it out or substitute something else!
Bonus: Here’s a handy chart of spices you can use to substitute when you don’t have certain spices.
The worst that can happen is that the dish doesn’t turn out amazing but if you don’t try it, you’ll never know! Which leads me to…
Don’t be afraid to fail.
If you make something and it tastes bad, it’s not the end of the world. Instead of being upset that your dish didn’t turn out, look at it as a learning experience. Maybe you tried to skip boiling your butternut squash when you were making butternut squash soup and decided to go straight to blending up the squash. Most likely, the squash is too hard to blend up without being cooked first. Now you know! You just learned that you gotta cook butternut squash before you’re able to easily blend it up. Put that mangled squash in a pot of water and try for round 2.
Maybe you tried to make spaghetti sauce and you were out of basil so you substituted it for cilantro and the result was a disgusting mixture of tomatoes and gross (disclaimer: I hate cilantro). Now you know, you should never substitute cilantro for basil. Or anything. Cause that stuff’s nasty.
Look at your failures as an opportunity to learn something about cooking and you’ll soon learn to realize you weren’t failing at all…you were just learning!
If you’re worried about wasting money on food you’ve rendered inedible…think of it as a cheap cooking class. Real cooking classes cost a lot more than the price of a couple failed dishes.
Act Like You Know What You’re Doing
If you’re fumbling around looking like a doofus, people are going to know you’re clueless. More importantly, you’re going to realize that you’re clueless and completely lose any confidence you had at the beginning of your cooking endeavor.
Convince yourself that you can do it. No matter what you’re trying to cook, you can do it. People much stupider than you have been cooking for ages without killing themselves. If they can do it, so can you.
The good news is that almost everyone else is simply acting like they know what they’re doing. They’re just really convincing.
Don’t worry, with the help of the internet, omitting or substituting things, and your new found indifference towards failure, soon you’ll realize you might actually kind of know what you’re doing and in the process, you made some delicious food.
What’d I Miss?
Do you have any tips on how to become a better cook? I’m always looking for new ways to get better at making food! Let me know some of your best cooking (or even learning in general) advice in the comments!!
By the way…
You may have noticed that the title of this post is a little different. I’m going to try something new. From now on, each of my posts will fit into one of three categories:
These three words really sum up my philosophy on life. I believe that these three things can greatly improve our spiritual and physical health.
Study: Through studying the things we value in life, we can learn how to improve our mental and physical well-being. This category will includes posts with information on nutrition, fitness, the bible, and christianity in general.
Savor: In this fast paced world, we often don’t take the time to stop and savor the beautiful things in life. Whether it’s food, nature, or the people around us…it’s important to take a moment to appreciate the beauty God has put into our lives. Posts in this category will include fun things like original recipes, recipe reviews, posts about enjoying nature and taking time to relax, and maybe even some product reviews.
Simplify: Humans tend to overcomplicate things. One of the things I’ve been focusing on in my life within the past few months has been to simplify things in my life. This could include the products I consume to the way I look at things (ie. this post about simplifying your approach to cooking!). These posts will be similar to this one but I’ll also have some other posts about how to make things yourself that you’ve never even considered like chapstick, vanilla extract, and laundry detergent!
I’m super excited about this new format! I think it will really help organize everything better and hopefully get my point across a little more clearly. If you have an opinion on the topic or any feedback for me, please don’t hesitate to let me know!
Thanks for reading!